University of Virginia Library


Southward they find a strip at need
Between the mount and marge, and make,
In expectation of the Swede,
Encampment there, nor shun the Lake.
'Twas afternoon. With Arab zest
The Bethlehemites their spears present,
Whereon they lift and spread the tent
And care for all.
As Rolfe from rest
Came out, toward early eventide,
His comrades sat the shore beside,
In shadow deep, which from the west
The main Judæan mountains flung.
That ridge they faced, and anxious hung
Awaiting Mortmain, some having grown
The more concerned, because from stone
Inscribed, they had indulged a hope:
But now in ill surmise they grope.
Anew they question grave Djalea.
But what knows he?
Their hearts to cheer,
“Trust,” Derwent said, “hope's silver bell;
Nor dream he'd do his life a wrong—


No, never!”
“Demons here which dwell,”
Cried Rolfe, “riff-raff of Satan's throng,
May fetch him steel, rope, poison—well,
He'd spurn them, hoot their scurvy hell:
There's nobler.—But what other knell
Of hap—” He turned him toward the sea.
Like leagues of ice which slumberous roll
About the pivot of the pole—
Vitreous—glass it seemed to be.
Beyond, removed in air sublime,
As 'twere some more than human clime,
In flanking towers of Ætna hue
The Ammonitish mounts they view
Enkindled by the sunset cast
Over Judah's ridgy headlands massed
Which blacken baseward. Ranging higher
Where vague glens pierced the steeps of fire,
Imagination time repealed—
Restored there, and in fear revealed
Lot and his daughters twain in flight,
Three shadows flung on reflex light
Of Sodom in her funeral pyre.
Some fed upon the natural scene,
Deriving many a wandering hint
Such as will ofttimes intervene
When on the slab ye view the print
Of perished species.—Judge Rolfe's start
And quick revulsion, when, apart,
Derwent he saw at ease reclined,
With page before him, page refined
And appetizing, which threw ope
New parks, fresh walks for Signor Hope
To saunter in.
“And read you here?
Scarce suits the ground with bookish cheer.


Escaped from forms, enlarged at last,
Pupils we be of wave and waste—
Not books; nay, nay!”
“Book-comment, though,”—
Smiled Derwent—“were it ill to know?”
“But how if nature vetoes all
Her commentators? Disenthrall
Thy heart. Look round. Are not here met
Books and that truth no type shall set?”—
Then, to himself in refluent flow:
“Earnest again!—well, let it go.”
Derwent quick glanced from face to face,
Lighting upon the student's hue
Of pale perplexity, with trace
Almost of twinge at Rolfe: “Believe,
Though here I random page review,
Not books I let exclusive cleave
And sway. Much too there is, I grant,
Which well might Solomon's wisdom daunt—
Much that we mark. Nevertheless,
Were it a paradox to confess
A book's a man? If this be so,
Books be but part of nature. Oh,
'Tis studying nature, reading books:
And 'tis through Nature each heart looks
Up to a God, or whatsoe'er
One images beyond our sphere.
Moreover, Siddim's not the world:
There's Naples. Why, yourself well know
What breadths of beauty lie unfurled
All round the bays where sailors go.
So, prithee, do not be severe,
But let me read.”
Rolfe looked esteem:
“You suave St. Francis! Him, I mean,
Of Sales, not that soul whose dream


Founded the bare-foot Order lean.
Though wise as serpents, Sales proves
The throbbings sweet of social doves.
I like you.”
Derwent laughed; then, “Ah,
From each Saint Francis am I far!”
And grave he grew.
It was a scene
Which Clarel in his memory scored:
How reconcile Rolfe's wizard chord
And forks of esoteric fire,
With common-place of laxer mien?
May truth be such a spendthrift lord?
Then Derwent: he reviewed in heart
His tone with Margoth; his attire
Of tolerance; the easy part
He played. Could Derwent, having gained
A certain slant in liberal thought,
Think there to bide, like one detained
Half-way adown the slippery glacier caught?
Was honesty his, with lore and art
Not to be fooled?—But if in vain
One tries to comprehend a man,
How think to sound God's deeper heart!